ELDERSBURG — What had been one of the worst-kept secrets in Carroll became the worst-kept secret at Saturday night's county wrestling tournament.
Heading into the finals of the tournament with the title already clinched by North Carroll, the meet announcer told the 700 to 800 fans in the Liberty High gym what at least some had learned in the days and weeks before -- Earl Hersh, county supervisor of physical education and athletics, is retiring at the end of the school year.
Hersh, 60, said Saturday he isn't ready to talk about his impending retirement with four months of work ahead. But when a friend stopped by to chat during a break in the action Saturday, Hersh smiled, assumed a golfing stance and asked, "Now, how do you grip these clubs?"
A former professional baseball player in the Milwaukee Braves organization, Hersh began teaching in the county in 1953 and took his current job in 1967.
Hersh occasionally has come under fire from coaches who disagree with his philosophy of keeping freshmen and sophomores on freshmen and junior varsity teams, and some track coaches who don't like the material the county uses to resurface ovals.
But overall, county athletics have done just fine, thank you. Others of hisgeneration may have fought Title IX, the 1972 legislation that required equal educational (and athletic) treatment for males and females,but Hersh used it as a tool to help build one of the state's best girls sports programs.
During Hersh's tenure, Carroll teams have, atvarious times, been among the best in the state in cross country, field hockey, volleyball, wrestling and track, with notable successes in almost every other sport.
Programs have expanded, with the addition of boys and girls lacrosse and girls soccer in recent years (though indoor track and gymnastics have fallen by the wayside) and Carroll became the state's first county to assign athletic trainers system-wide.
Earl Hersh has done much for county athletics in his nearly 40-year tenure. His successor will have big shoes to fill.
Francis Scott Key was strong in the lightweights and Westminster did well in the heavyweights.
But North Carroll was strong overall, capturing the 1992 county championships with ease. The Panthers coasted to a 50-point victory over second-place Francis Scott Key, winning nine individual crowns after placing 11 of 13 wrestlers in the finals.
The best championship bout Saturday was the latest installment in the budding rivalry between North Carroll junior Andy Kiler and Francis Scott Key freshman Randy Owings.
Owings nipped Kiler, 1-0, in the county finals at 119 pounds. The two had met in a dual match last Wednesday and finished scoreless, and Saturday's match was headed the same way until the final 30 seconds of the third period. After 11 minutes, 30 seconds of wrestling, Owings finally scored a point -- when Kiler was called for stalling.
"It's a shame, as many times as they've seen each other, that it had to come down to a penalty point," said Key coach Bill Hyson.
Though the two have met just twice in high school, they split four rec league matches.
Owings improved to 20-3-1 on the season and took a 3-2-1 lead in his series against Kiler, who is 15-4-2 overall.
Team standings: 1. North Carroll 192.5, 2. Francis Scott Key 142, 3. Westminster 103, 4. South Carroll 85, 5. Liberty 38.
103 pounds: Jeremy Myers (North Carroll) dec. Bryan Seifert (Liberty), 7-0; 112: Bob Schech (North Carroll) dec. Steve Lessard (Francis Scott Key), 16-5; 119: Randy Owings (Francis Scott Key) dec. Andy Kiler (North Carroll), 1-0; 125: Scott Dell (North Carroll) pinned Chris Beale (Francis ScottKey), 3:45; 130: Andy Rill (North Carroll) dec. Brad Schisler (Westminster), 3-0; 135: Tom Dell (North Carroll) pinned Josh Bonnette (Francis Scott Key), 1:24; 140: Neil Brennan (Westminster) dec. Danny Horner (North Carroll), 4-2 (OT); 145: Saidrick Lewis (North Carroll) dec. Matt Crill (South Carroll), 3-1; 152: Ronnie Miller (North Carroll) dec. Shane Harman (Liberty), 12-1; 160: Ed Null (Francis Scott Key)dec. Bryan Stewart (Westminster), 10-2; 171: Chris Boog (North Carroll) dec. Chris Grubb (Westminster), 11-3; 189: Matt DeMoss (South Carroll) dec. Ryan Warner (Westminster), 7-2; Hwt: Derrick Poznaniak (North Carroll) by injury disqualification over James Stump (Westminster), 4:53.